Review: The Health of Nations–Society and Law beyond the State

6 Star Top 10%, Consciousness & Social IQ, Crime (Government), Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, History, Intelligence (Public), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Public Administration, Secession & Nullification, Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars One of a Handful of Revolutionary Books,

October 28, 2003
Philip Allott
Edit of21 Dec 07 to add links and reassert importance of this work.

Of the 1000+ books I have reviewed on Amazon, this is one of a handful that can be considered truly revolutionary. Three others that come instantly to mind are those by Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, William Greider, The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, and E.O. Wilson, The Future of Life.

This book is not an easy read. The author, a Professor of Law in the University of Cambridge, wrote an earlier work, Eunomia: New Order for a New World, that has remained similar obscure, and that is a pity, for what I see here is a truly brilliant mind able to suggest that the Congress of Vienna, the current law of nations, and the de-humanization of state to state relations, isolating the internal affairs and inhumanities of state from global public morality and indignation, are the greatest travesty in human history.

The author joins William Greider in suggesting that the state as a corporate personality is as immoral (and irrational in terms of natural law) as is the corporate personality that allows corporations to treat humans as “goods.” In this book the author sets out to do nothing less than logically overturn centuries of absolutist amoral power institutionalized by elites in the form of state governments with sovereign rights divorced from and with eminent domain over their subjects (vice citizens), and to propose a new form of globalized human society that restores the human aspect to relations among peoples and among nations of peoples.

This is a book that requires patience. It must be slowly and methodically absorbed. The footnotes are quite extraordinary, as is the summative and explicatory survey of many different literatures over many different historical periods.

The author is critical of universities for failing to develop the public mind, and offers a lovely exposition of how sanity, insanity, and public consciousness are all subject to the mythology of capitalism and the manipulation of the elites–in this he would find fellow travelers (smile) in Chomsky and Vidal. He concludes that diplomacy (and statecraft) as an articulation of the public mind and public interest have *failed*, and looks instead to some sort of social re-ordering from the bottom up.

This book, apart from offering an enlightened vision of the law as a living thing able to encapsulate changes morality and changing interests among parties, does nothing less than reconceptualize international relations. This author is to the law of nations what Vaclav Havel was to communism.

He touches on a point Henry Kissinger makes in the last of his books I reviewed (Does America Need a Foreign Policy? : Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century), and specifically that “The risk now facing humanity is the globalizing of the all-powerful, all-consuming social systems, without the moral, legal, political and cultural aspirations and constraints, such as they are, which moderate social action at the national level.” The world, in essence, has become much too complex and much too volatile and much too dangerous for archaic state-level forms of mandarin governance.

In the middle of the book, the author's review of how Germany previously collapsed into a patchwork of insignificant nations sounds all too much like the United States of America, where citizenship is losing its value, tyrannical minorities are in isolation from one another (and from reality), and the sense of national identity is too easily captured by a handful of neo-conservatives (modern Nazis). Interestingly, as with Havel, he notes the importance of art and culture as a means of synthesizing national identity, and would probably agree with E.O. Wilson (“Consilience”) as to the humanities being vital to the context and conduct of the sciences. His list of national “diseases” is both disturbing and timely.

He joins Jefferson and the founding fathers in focusing on the health and happiness of the people as the ultimate organizing principle (some would translate “happiness” as “fulfillment”, a more accomplished and less frivolous objective).

On page 137 he is quite clear in suggesting that capitalism as it is practiced today, is nothing less than a form of totalitarianism, and he goes on to say on page 139 that social evil is the greatest challenge facing humanity today. Instead of socializing individuals into the reduced status of “goods” we should be socializing the state into a representative and general democracy by rehumanizing humanity and rehumanizing the organizations that are supposed to provide collective voice to the people.

In following pages the author provides a brilliant catalog of the ills of democracy, reconceptualizes democracy as being based on the rule of law (for all) rather than on who rules (for the benefit of the few), and he explicitly condemns the largely unaccountable forms of concentrated power (by which we take to mean the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and other devices for perpetuating immoral capitalism irrespective of local needs).

The full force of the author's thinking comes into full stride in the concluding portions of the book as he integrates new concepts of international law, history, social relations, and new forms of intergovernmental relations truly representative of the species as a whole and the people as a moral force. He laments the manner in which an extraordinarily global elite has been able to “separate” people from morality and from one another, leading to a common acceptance of five intolerable things: 1) unequal social development; 2) war and armaments; 3) governmental oppression; 4) physical degradation; and 5) spiritual degradation.

The author concludes by proposing a new view of the human world, and his remarks must be read in the original. He ends, as do Will and Ariel Durant in their summative “The Lessons of History,” by noting that the necessary revolution is that which must take place in our minds, not on the streets.”

This is an utterly brilliant book that has been badly marketed and is grossly under-appreciated, even by the so-called intelligencia. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to cast off their slave clothes, stop being a drone, and live free.

More recent books that fully validate this superb work, with reviews:
Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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Review: The Soul of Capitalism–Opening Paths to a Moral Economy

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Economics, Philosophy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Parts the Seas, Restores Hope & Morality to the American Way,

September 13, 2003
William Greider
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

The author has written a book that outlines an implementable vision worthy of the Nobel Prize.

If you buy just one book this year, if you read just one book prior to voting in the primary and general elections of any country, this is the book. It combines common sense, a deep understanding of the flaws of a capitalist system that has been hijacked by unethical elites, and an extraordinary diversity of interviews and sources that I found compellingly sensible and straight-forward.

Politically and economically, this book offers the citizen-voter-consumer-stockholder an objective and balanced account of exactly what is wrong with the existing American way of capitalism (both at home and abroad), and how we might, over time, fix it.

Most importantly, the author destroys all of the myths and lies about the rising American standard of living, and demonstates that when one revises the Gross Domestic Product calculations to substract rather than add the negative products such as prisons and health care stemming from unsafe products and practices, the over-all national economic indicators have been steadily declining for over thirty years.

The author is brilliant–truly brilliant–in studying the work of others and putting together a case for redefining capitalism and the financial accounting for capitalism to include social costs and benefits as part of the evaluative calculus. He excells at understanding and explaining the benefits to be had by introducing long-term sustainability, worker-friendly labor and management cultures, and balanced work force composition (save the middle class) and compensation (end the looting of America and its pension funds by an out of control corporate elite).

In discussing the soul of capitalism, the author is in fact discussing America's soul. His book is not only a handbook for grassroots and collective bargaining actions by all communities and assocations, it is a reference point by which Americans specifically, but all national in all nations, should be judging their political and economic and social leaders. People *can* take back the power, but first they must understand that the existing economic situation is so unstable and unhealthy that it virtually guarantees life on Earth will end within the next 100 years.

Although the book clearly mandates a reordering of both the American economic and the American political systems, and the author addresses those, he placed the bulk of his emphasis at the grass-roots level, and discusses how specific organizations and communities across America are “by-passing Washington” and establishing revolutionary new covenants for community-based, labor-friendly, sustainable economics.

The book as a whole draws a clear distinction between what one might call Bush Economics (loot the commonwealth, enrich a very tiny elite that already has most of the wealth) and Dean Economics (recover the $500 billion a year in unwarranted corporate subsidies and financial fraud, restore the social side of the capitalist value system, share the wealth, sustain the environment).

The author is a man of faith. Throughout the book, but especially when discussing the Social Gospel movement and reform theologians with close ties to extreme suffering in communities that have lost everything, he can inspire tears of both sadness at what we have done to ourselves, and joy at the possibilities for the future if we the people take back the power.

At every turn in the book one reads about the connection between capitalism and democracy–between corrupt capitalism and the falseness and injustice of American democracy and foreign policy (see our reviews of Paul Krugman's “The Great Unraveling”, Jonathan Schell, “The Unconquerable World”, and Mark Hertsgaard, “The Eagle's Shadow”)–and between moral capitalism and democracy restored.

Drawing on the work of David Ellerman, William Greider discusses the master-servant relationship between corporate employers and human employees, and concludes, as does Ellerman, that all of the injustices of capitalism are based on a legalized fraud. “The ‘fraud' is the economic pretense that people can be treated as things, as commodities or mahcines, as lifeless property that lacks the qualities inseparable from the human self, the person's active deliberation and choices, the personal accountability for one's actions.”

Three additional notes (this review barely scratches the surface and cannot do justice to the wealth of knowledge the author is communicating in a very effective manner):

1) If the labor unions come together to use their pension funds as sledge hammers, they can do a great deal of good in both reforming Wall Street and nurturing labor-friendly and environmental-friendly corporate behavior.

2) The retired population in America represents an untapped national asset–a wise President would find ways to use this virtually unlimited pool of social and functional talent to revitalize communities, schools, families, businesses, and non-profit endeavors.

3) Both the corporate governance model and the enforcement model are so severely flawed that they must be over-turned. Corporations should not have legal personalities that eliminate accountability for the individuals managing them, and the enforcement process needs to be turned on its head, focusing on incentives for higher social performance rather than punishments for the occasionally prosecuted rogue corporation.

In relation to foreign economic relations, the author provides a superb complementary reading to Clyde Prestowitz's book, “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions.” As he puts it so nicely, in today's world walls do not work and there is no place for corporations to hide once the anger of the people is aroused. America must not only clean its own house, but in so doing, in restoring the morality of capitalism and the realiy of democracy, America will again be a land of ideals instead of hypocrisy, a land of liberty instead of looting, a land that inspires the world instead of corrupting it.

America, and the world, are at a turning point. I pray that no fewer than 50 million Americans will read this book, and I urge every faithful Amazon customer to buy 5 copies of this book and give them out as part of re-engaging every adult in the vital process of restoring democracy and restoring morality to capitalism.

High recommended books, with reviews:
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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Review: The Unconquerable World–Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People

7 Star Top 1%, America (Anti-America), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Consciousness & Social IQ, Cosmos & Destiny, Democracy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Future, History, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Public), Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Public Administration, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars7 Star Life Transformative  Restores Faith, Non-Violent Restoration of People Power,

September 13, 2003
Jonathan Schell

Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links

This book, together with William Geider's The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, and Mark Hertsgaard's The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World, in one of three that I believe every American needs to read between now and November 2004.

Across 13 chapters in four parts, the author provides a balanced overview of historical philosophy and practice at both the national level “relations among nations” and the local level (“relations among beings”). His bottom line: that the separation of church and state, and the divorce of social responsibility from both state and corporate actions, have so corrupted the political and economic governance architectures as to make them pathologically dangerous.

His entire book discusses how people can come together, non-violently, to restore both their power over capital and over circumstances, and the social meaning and values that have been abandoned by “objective” corporations and governments.

The book has applicability to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where the US is foolishly confusing military power with political power. As he says early on, it is the public *will* that must be gained, the public *consent* to a new order–in the absence of this, which certainly does not exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan, no amount of military power will be effective (to which I would add: and the cumulative effect of the financial and social cost of these military interventions without end will have a reverse political, economic, and social cost on the invader that may make the military action a self-inflicted wound of great proportions).

Across the book, the author examines three prevailing models for global relations: the universal empire model, the balance of power model, and the collective security model. He comes down overwhelmingly on the side of the latter as the only viable approach to current and future global stability and prosperity.

A quote from the middle of the book captures its thesis perfectly: “Violence is a method by which the ruthless few can subdue the passive many. Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.”

Taking off from the above, the author elaborates on three sub-themes:

First, that cooperative power is much greater, less expensive, and more lasting that coercive power.

Second, that capitalism today is a scourge on humanity, inflicting far greater damage–deaths, disease, poverty, etcetera–that military power, even the “shock and awe” power unleashed against Afghanistan and Iraq without public debate.

Third, and he draws heavily on Hannah Arendt, here a quote that should shame the current US Administration because it is so contradictory to their belief in “noble lies”–lies that Hitler and Goering would have admired. She says, “Power is actualized only where word and deed have not parted company, where words are not empty and deeds not brutal, where words are not used to veil intentions but to disclose realities, and deeds are not used to violate and destroy but to establish relations and create new realities.”

Toward the end of the book the author addresses the dysfunctionality of the current “absolute sovereignty” model and concludes that in an era of globalization, not only must the US respect regional and international sovereignty as an over-lapping authority, but that we must (as Richard Falk recommended in the 1970's) begin to recognize people's or nations as distinct entities with culturally-sovereign rights that over-lap the states within which the people's reside–this would certainly apply to the Kurds, spread across several states, and it should also apply to the Jews and to the Palestinians, among many others.

On the last page, he says that we have a choice between survival and annihilation. We can carry on with unilateral violence, or we the people can take back the power, change direction, and elect a government that believes in cooperative non-violence, the only path to survival that appears to the author, and to this reviewer, as viable.

This is a *very* important book, and it merits careful reading by every adult who wishes to leave their children a world of peace and prosperity. We can do better. What we are doing now is destructive in every sense of the word.

Other recommended books with reviews:
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship

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Review: Cicero–The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician

4 Star, History, Philosophy, Politics

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Book, Not a Substitute for Broader Reading,

August 31, 2003
Anthony Everitt
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

This is a fine book. It has one really great sentence that most of those reading the book have undoubtedly passed over quickly, on page 37: …although fighting continued for some time at a terrible cost in human lives and suffering, Rome emerged the military victor–and the political loser.”

As I contemplate all of the other non-fiction books, and especially those with national security wisdom relevant to our times, it is, I must say with all candor, a little irritating to see this book in the top ten. This is what loosely-educated wonks read to appear educated and “steeped in history.” This is a fine book, but if policy wonks don't understand that they need to be putting Schell (The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People) and Greider (The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy), among others that I have reviewed, above this book, then they are demonstrating their myopia.

In addition to Schell and Greider, and much more relevant to the challenges at hand are a few of the following (the entire list can be seen in my lectures on books relevant to national security at OSS.Net): Colin Gray's Modern Strategy; Brzezinski's The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Charles Kupchan's The Vulnerability of Empire (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs); Dr. Col. Manwaring et al on The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century….the list goes on. If you want history, there is always Will and Ariel Durant's The Lessons of History: The Most Important Insights from the Story of Civilization, or the more recent and truly elegant work by John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past…vital “to interpret the past for the purposes of the present with a view to managing the future.”

This is a good book. If, however, it is the best the policy world can do in terms of selection, then we have a classic illustration of how random and ignorant policy wonks can be–meanwhile, 1400 Middle East scholars and professors throughout the land go unhead, while a handful of talking heads quote Cicero and pretend to be learned.

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Review: Statecraft as Soulcraft

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Culture, Research, Democracy, Education (General), Information Society, Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Insights into What Makes Nations Great,

February 28, 2003
George F. Will
Although George Will can be an extremist in some of his views, he has a good mind and is gifted as an author and orator. This is nowhere more evident than in this collection of 20th century essays, where he focuses on “statecraft as soulcraft.” Thomas Jefferson understood that an educated citizenry was a Nation's best defense, and the Vietnamese have clearly demonstrated that a nation with a strong strategic culture can defeat the United States when it practices the American way of war (lots of technology, little public support for the war). Today we are beginning to understand that the moral aspects of national character are 3-5 times more important than the physical and economic and technical aspects. Michele Borba's new book, Building Moral Intelligence, together with George Will's dated but still powerfully relevant book, comprise the urgently needed elementary education for all adults who would be responsibile citizens–or leaders of citizens.
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Review: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – How We Got to Be So Hated

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Religion & Politics of Religion, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Strategy, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page

Gore Vidal

5.0 out of 5 stars You Get the Government You Deserve…., May 28, 2002

This book should be read in conjunction with Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy Vidal's book should be subtitled “you get the government you deserve.”

I cannot think of a book that has depressed me more. There are three underlying issues that make this book vitally important to anyone who cares to claim the title of “citizen:”

1) Citizens need to understand what their government is doing in the name of America, to the rest of the world. “Ignorance is not an excuse.” All of the other books I have reviewed (“see more about me” should really say “see my other reviews”) are designed to help citizens evaluate and then vote wisely in relation to how our elected representatives are handling national security affairs–really, really badly.

Continue reading “Review: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – How We Got to Be So Hated”